This work was composed as a gift at the request of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for their spring 2010 gala
First performance by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York, NY, 15 April 2010
Duration: 3 1/2 minutes
KEY OF TRUMPETS: This can be played on C Trumpets or other trumpets including, for example, Bb and D Trumpets. The sounding pitch will depend on the key of the pair of instruments used.
Version for two trumpets (this is in the middle key version)
Version for two saxophones (this is in the higher key version)
JEU D’ESPRIT is a highly virtuosic three-minute fanfare whim, which connects, combines, and transforms majestic motives with ornamental materials (which are almost Measureoque-like in their arabesques and trills). Given that there are only two instruments, and they can each only play one note at a time, I worked hard to give the illusion that this fanfare is about harmony. This, despite that we never hear more than two notes played together. It is at times fiery, at times fluid, and generally ablaze with energy.
The work was made as a gift to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who asked for a fanfare for their spring 2010 gala fundraiser. The music is dedicated to Connie Steensma and Lizabeth Newman for their leadership, passion, and generosity
Although my music is highly notated, precise, carefully structured, thoughtfully proportioned, and so forth… and although you may have several musicians elegantly working together, from the very specific text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled - on the spot. As if we listeners, the audience, are overhearing a CAPTURED IMPROVISATION.
I like my music to be played so that the “inner-life” of the different rhythmic syntaxes is specific, with characterized phrasing of the colors and harmonies, etc.- keeping it ultra-alive –such that it always sounds spontaneous.<
For their sublime, precision, and technical mastery, I deeply thank artists for playing my notations in this way.
— Augusta Read Thomas
Please note that there are two other versions: one is Perfect fifth higher, the other is a perfect forth lower. Playing JEU D’ESPRIT in one of those other keys might better fit your instruments. For instance, the higher version will work better for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Saxophones; the lower version will work better for French Horn.
A version of this work, which is entitled TOP-NOTCH and which is notated one octave higher can be performed by:
2 Piccolos (or alternatively by 2 flutes, but only if 2 piccolos are not available. The extreme piercing and intense quality of the piccolos’ register is the composer’s preference.) This piccolo version is dedicated to Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg.
KEY OF TRUMPETS: This can be played on trumpets of any key (C, Bb, D, etc.). The sounding pitch will depend on the key of the pair of instruments used.
FERMATAS ON NOTES: Please vary the durations of each normal, round-in-shape, fermata such that they do not become predictable. In this way, each performance will be slightly different from one another. Their duration should depend on the resonance of the instruments in the performance space. The square fermatas should be even longer than the normal, round-in-shape, fermatas. The pointed fermatas are the shortest of the three fermata types. All fermatas add duration.
Very often, there are fermatas in the middle of a phrase, or suddenly in the middle of a fast-running passage. They are meant to “throw off” the pulse and add to the unpredictability and to the desired “un-square-ness” of the flow. They are often an effort to “write-in” very flexible rubato and to add expressivity and chamber music virtuosity.
FERMATAS ON RESTS: They are mostly there so that the musicians feel they have enough time to breathe naturally and so they do not have to precisely count as they breathe. But these should not make us feel that the momentum stops.
A TEMPO: Unless a new tempo is specified, then after each fermata, please return to the previous tempo. In other words, "A TEMPO" is not marked each time, but is implied and wanted.
DURATION: Approximately 3 minutes and 20 seconds.
FORM: Despite the constant shift of character and colors, the composition consists of four main phrases: Measure 1-14; Measure 15-25; Measure 26-35; and then from Measure 36 to the end. The final phrase has several distinct sub-phrases, which gradually ebb toward the final measure. Performances should make explicit to the audience this very clear and simple four-phrase form.
PERFORMANCE SPACE: Because of the piercing, brassy and bright nature of the instrumentation, it is suggested that this work be played in a resonant and mid-sized concert hall. It should be heard with some distance, not “close-up” nor in a small room. The piece should be performed with the two artists standing at the center of the front of the stage and preferably reading from one score that they share.
To obtain examination or performance material for any of
Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..